Baltimore Ravens (1-0) at Houston Texans (0-1)
This is a tough one. On one hand, you can definitely make the argument that the Texans are a good enough team that they shouldn’t be home underdogs of this many points (7.5) against anyone and this line has swung pretty significantly in the past week, from 5.5 on the early line last week to 7.5 this week. My roster rankings have the Texans calculated as 4 point underdogs, even factoring in diminished homefield advantage, so from that standpoint, we’re getting some line value. On the other hand, the Ravens are on a truly otherworldly run in their last 9 meaningful regular season games dating back to last season and it might be foolish to go against them regardless of the line, as my roster rankings may not adequately take into account how well the Ravens have played since about the middle of last season.
Dating back to last year’s week 8 bye, the Ravens have a ridiculous +15.50% first down rate differential and a +205 point differential in their last 9 meaningful regular season games. That would be impressive if a team did it in a full season, let alone in 9 games (22.8 points per game). The Ravens lost right guard Marshal Yanda and safety Earl Thomas this off-season, a pair of key players from last year’s team, so I thought we might be able to get some value going against them early this season, but they didn’t seem to miss them win they posted the league’s best first down rate differential (+17.39%) in their week one blowout victory over the Browns.
The Ravens did lose in the first round in the playoffs last year, after resting their starters in a meaningless week 17 game, but they didn’t play as badly as the 28-12 final score suggested, as the game swung entirely on the Ravens -3 turnover margin and 0 for 4 on fourth down, two highly inconsistent metrics and two things highly uncharacteristic of this Ravens’ team. The Ravens lost the first down rate battle in that game (their only instance of doing so since week 7 of last season), but only by 3.24% and it came against a Titans team that was legitimately one of the best in the league last season. If I had to make a pick against the spread for pick ‘em purposes, I would take the Texans just because they are a solid team and they have so much room for cushion as 7.5 point underdogs, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Texans played a good game and still lost by multiple scores.
Baltimore Ravens 27 Houston Texans 20
Pick against the spread: Houston +7.5